Renewed educational play zone in the National Military Museum – Lighting design in the forefront

The National Military Museum has opened a new educational play area for children: Xplore. Xplore’s location in the museum is a rather dark room. We asked lighting designer Jeffrey Steenbergen about the challenges in lighting.

With the design of Xplore, the museum wants to help children understand the struggle for freedom. In Xplore, the focus is on making and experiencing themselves and children’s play with full imagination.


In Xplore, there are four large play objects, completely created at the child level: there is a castle, a Chinook, a tank and a submarine. The play objects are connected by net paths, wobbly bridges and rope ladders, so that exploratory obstacle routes are created. Each play object invites you to go on a journey of discovery through the challenging do-it-yourself activities in and on it. This inspires children to move and learn through play.

Interactive games

The older children have also been considered. There are three interactive games, gathered in one ‘command center’. Here the children can control a submarine, a Chinook and a tank to perform tasks together.

Danish design

The Danish company Monstrum has made the design. Deputy Director and Architect Amalie Muff: “If children can learn through play, it’s great. It makes children enjoy going to museums. Inclusiveness is also important. An artistic environment inspires everyone, including children with disabilities. The colorful and imaginative design of play objects is a language that everyone understands, and everyone can be a part of that adventure. ”

More information:

Lighting explained

We (redactie know the play area at the National Military Museum as a rather dark room in the heart of the museum with no daylight outside. This is a situation that also occurs frequently with indoor recreation companies. It is precisely on this topic that the Dutch lighting specialist Jeffrey Steenbergen is involved in this project. Lighting also seems to be an essential part of the experience

Was it a challenge to get the lighting right in this dark room? Or is it helpful for some sunlight to come in?

Steenbergen: “It has advantages and disadvantages. For the lighting effect of Chinook, it is a blessing. Of course, it also has its challenges. Probably because Monstrum had not previously had to do anything in the interior on this scale, and the whole environment is black. The whole room goes through the cycle from day to night within an hour. In addition, each object has a number of buttons with light effects that you need to balance. Flying the chinook helicopter is a nice light show, but the camouflage light in the submarine or starting and shooting with the tank also brings light. ”

Of course, light is more than atmosphere?

Steenbergen: “That’s right. Child safety is also very important. Of course, the rubber floor helps a lot. Because we did not quite know how great the lack of daylight would be, we renewed the entire worklight. The work light can be controlled in zones with low value, medium and high. At the castle, where the several small children play, the work light is well on during the day. A little less with Chinook, because the challenge there is already too big for the real little ones. The work light zones are therefore also controlled by Pharo’s light control. “

How do you visualize the day and night with the lighting technique?

Steenbergen: “The night is the shortest, so it is never dark for too long when it is dark and exciting. Adding the work light also means that all color spots are mainly for atmosphere. In addition to these color spots, we also have a number of white directional spots (3000K) that are in all fall danger points and are always on. Just brighter in dark situations. Think of all the exits from a roller coaster, every staircase and every climbing / jumping object. Here, too, there is more of this light on the castle. And in all secrecy, we also use the white spots wherever we expect parents to like to take a picture, so that the children always have light in front of those pictures. “

Steenbergen’s final conclusion about working under these specific (dark) conditions: “If you ask me, it’s a blessing not to have sunlight in this case, because it gives you all the space to work with the atmosphere and thus the objects become even more but we would not have managed it without adding the work light as a base. ”

Companies involved in the design of Xplore:

  • Koppelco for the interactive, AV and light design
  • Jeffrey Steenbergen helped Koppelco with the lighting design
  • MONSTRUM – Playground design
  • Shosho BV and Kiss the Frog – Games
  • Dark Group – Floor
  • Light fixture – Rings Chinook
  • CLS LED – Lighting
  • Heijmans – Project coordination and implementation

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